Now that the election is decided, leaders in both parties and in political discussions have started to debate the question of Bush's mandate. The extremes run from claiming that the President somehow does not have a mandate, to claiming that he can and should pursue all of his goals and plans. However, it is not correct to believe that the middle between those two extremes is the best result.
First, it's nothing more than a desperate Liberal pipe dream, to think that President Bush does not have a mandate to lead. After all, eighteen Presidential elections were won by a candidate who claimed less than 50% of the Popular Vote, including some who are honored as among our best Presidents. I've already written about that on Polipundit. So, there really is no question that President Bush has a mandate, more than many Presidents.
The real questions should be: What sort of mandate does President Bush own, and what should the Democrats' position be in the next 4 years? Also, since there is a clear sense of division between the Left and Right, what can be done to move ahead?
Simply put, since the GOP controls the White House, the House and Senate, and from that position has increased its numbers in both the House and Senate, the GOP may reasonably be called the Majority Party, who sets the agenda, makes the rules, and runs the show. It's quite reasonable for Democrats to say that the Republicans should be held responsible for whatever happens in the next 4 years, but it's also reasonable that if the GOP will face all the consequences for whatever happens in the next 4 years, then they have every right to tell the Democrats to take the back seat and shut up. This is especially the case after the nasty hypocrisy shown by Democrats, who got a lot of consideration from Bush during the first term, but refused to grant any sort of credit to the President. In consideration of the Democrats' boorish and sometimes thuggish tactics, I suspect that Republicans rallied and Undecideds were swayed to support a man unfairly attacked. But it remains a plain fact, that the Republicans have done a number of things in the past 4 years to work with the Democrats, while the Democrats have done nothing to cooperate with the Republicans, and we now know that they even intended to pretend cooperation in order to hide manipulation of security issues for political advantage (remember the Rockefeller memo?). There simply exists no basis for trusting the Democrats. Fool me once, shame on you, try it again and your name is Pelosi.
The problem with "All GOP Leadership", is that not all Republicans are the same. RINO is not a mispelt African animal, after all. We all know that Senators like Specter, McCain, and far too many others do exactly as they please, and hide behind the party when they run for re-election. A lot of people don't realize that this game has been played for many, many years.
Before I go on with Republicans, I think it's important to note the difference, operationally, between the Republicans and the Democrats, and the difference between the House and the Senate.
Maybe it has something to do with running for office more often than the Senate, but House members are a lot more willing to cross the aisle. It's also probably due to the fact, that with 435 Representatives, it's easier to blend in than in the hundred-member Senate. Pay attention to the news, and you'll notice that the average Senator is likely to spin the party line, while the parties usually send out the leadership from the House. Then again, maybe it's the egos; you hear Senator A and B talk all the time about the White House, often implying they belong there themselves, but the only time you hear about a Representative in connection with the White House, is when someone is discussing the Constitutional Succession of the Presidency. All in all, then, it means that most of the trouble comes from the better-paid, bigger-ego'd Senators.
Now, about Democrats. There's a lot of talk about organization, and in different comparisons each party has its advantages, but in the case of lining up the Senators, there's a clear difference. The GOP seems to go hat in hand to their Senators, asking them to support the President. The Democrat leadership tells their Senators that anyone who bucks against the President (when a Democrat is in office) can expect to lose campaign money and support they need for the bills their state is watching for them to deliver. If I was going to put it on one thing, I think the Democrats learned discipline back in the FDR days, and got it taught again under LBJ, while the Republicans still act like they think they're the minority party. That's one reason why Bush needs to be brash and claim the country for his plans; Bush needs to simply say the Republicans are in control, and he should follow it up with a little meeting here and there, to privately explain to Senators and Congressmen that their futures rest on supporting him. Because Bush can follow through on that threat, when it hits the GOP pretenders, they will realize that Bush is where the money comes from, that his support means winning and his absence wil cost them. Some people think "Bush Dynasty" means that Bush plans on keeping the White House in the family, but it actually better describes the fact that President Bush can make or break the political career of anyone in Washington, and his family will control that kind of influence for a number of years to come, even after he leaves office.
As for the country, there are three critical missions which must not fail. First, Supreme Court appointments must be set up. The Democrats can and will whine, but there are 2 or 3 positions which need to be filled. It doesn't matter who Bush presents, the Democrats will demonize him/her. Tough it out, though, and the nation will be better for it. We need justices who will obey the Constitution, not try to read new "rights" into it.
Second, the Bush Doctrine must prevail in Iraq. Hundreds of millions of lives will be directly be bettered directly by the eradication of structured terrorist groups in the Middle East, and supporting a genuine Arab Democratic Republic is a win for the planet, though every dictator and backwards oligarchy and repressive theocracy will decry it.
Third, there is always a consequence for every action. It is well past time, when Americans in general can trust their government to be responsible, and to demand that our history be celebrated, not perverted. Kids need to be taught what's right with America, to be optimistic about the system and our government, and to judge people as individuals, putting away Class Warfare and the rhetoric of hate spewing from the Left. Liberal values are important, but balance is essential, and frankly, long overdue.
The Mandate matters. President Bush knows it, and we are fortunate that this man, who has met a number of tough challenges already, is up to this one as well.